The 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) and the 7th Global Biodiversity Summit of Subnational Governments and Cities and its Pavilion will be a global milestone to welcome a stronger and action-oriented contribution by subnational and local governments in the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF). It will be a strategic and historic moment for the Local and Subnational Major Group, which is calling for CBD Parties to adopt a renewed Decision on engagement with subnational governments, cities and other local authorities to enhance the implementation of the post-2020 GBF, and its Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2021-2030).
For more than a decade, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability has been spearheading the advocacy movement within the CBD to ensure that the ambitions of, and contributions by, subnational and local governments are recognized in the various decisions, frameworks and targets of the Convention. After the last Conference of the Parties – COP14 in 2018 in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt – ICLEI responded to the CBD Decision 14/34 on the GBF consultation process by mobilizing the subnational and government constituency and being a key partner to the Scottish Government in the Edinburgh Process. From this mobilization and collaboration, the Edinburgh Declaration emerged, which called for a renewed Decision of the previous Decision X/22 – called the “Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity”, which was adopted in Nagoya at COP10 in 2010. The renewed Decision deals with, among other things, resource mobilization, the integration of cities and subnational governments in the development of national strategies and action plans, and monitoring and reporting.
The Edinburgh Declaration has been signed by +270 cities and regions globally. Although it’s a high-level political statement that expresses the ambition of cities, it also provides the mandate for the renewed Decision and a more ambitious Plan of Action, and identifies specific areas that cities want addressed in the new Decision. The draft Decision was discussed at the resumed CBD meetings in Geneva in March 2022, where the Local and Subnational Governments Major Group managed to obtain strong support from many of the Parties to the Convention, and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) adopted the draft recommendation (CBD/SBI/3/L.16) as recommendation 3/14 to COP15. And at the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG-4) meeting held in June 2022 in Nairobi, an increased number of Parties called for the inclusion of subnational and local governments in the GBF.
The Edinburgh Declaration has numerous synergies with the recommended renewed Decision, as well as with its Plan of Action. The Edinburgh Declaration is still open for signatures, but will come to a close just before COP15. Signing this declaration is important for cities and regions to ensure that the Parties take note of the strong ambition and momentum among these levels of government, and will lend weight to passing the renewed and more ambitious Decision that will hopefully be adopted by the Parties in Montreal. It’s critical for cities and regions that the Parties don’t just ‘welcome’ or ‘endorse’ the Decision, but that they decide to ‘adopt’ it, because it reflects stronger ambition. Cities and regions that have not yet signed the Edinburgh Declaration are encouraged to do so here as soon as possible to add their voices calling for a more ambitious decision and recognition of the contribution of subnational and local governments to the CBD and the implementation of the GBF.
Whole of government approach: integrating local governments into UN process:
The underpinning philosophy of the new Global Biodiversity Framework is that it acknowledges for the first time that biodiversity loss is everybody’s responsibility and everybody’s problem, and also everybody’s opportunity to make a contribution. “To save our planet and nature we need to move away from this current trajectory where we are losing about a million species – keep in mind those species are the very things that keep us alive, the sources of our food, livelihood, medicines, and what our economies depend on. There are so many benefits from these species and biodiverse ecosystems,” said Ingrid Coetzee, Director of Biodiversity, Nature & Health at ICLEI Africa. By participating in initiatives such as CitiesWithNature, and by making commitments and reporting them on the Action Platform, cities not only take concrete action – for example halting the pollution of a river and having better water quality for your community – but they also inspire others to follow their lead.
One of the most notable elements of the recommended renewed Decision is its focus on monitoring and reporting – with a particular reference to the CitiesWithNature Action Platform. This means the Parties recognize and endorse CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature as the online platforms – the central place – where subnational governments, cities and other local authorities can share and regularly report on their voluntary commitments to the GBF. The gap that CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature fills is a first, given that previously there was no mechanism where cities or regions could make commitments, capture and share them with the rest of the world, and particularly with the Parties. These platforms for the first time offer an opportunity to track each city or region’s progress against their commitments, for cities and regions to report on their progress, which can be aggregated into the country reports to the CBD.
Since its launch in Geneva in March 2022, the free CitiesWithNature Action Platform has already had significant contributions – with 243 cities and regions from 63 countries joining to date. Although the commitments are voluntary, they are aligned with the 2030 Action Targets and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in this way align with most cities, municipalities and metropolitan areas’ mandates. There’s a very strong link between the SDGs and the GBF targets in themselves. “If we do not address our biodiversity and ecosystems, we’re not going to achieve our SDGs,” Ingrid added. These linkages go beyond SDG 14 and 15 on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, but ultimately every SDG is dependent on healthy, functioning ecosystems.
The platform also aligns with other initiatives, including the Sharm el-Sheik to Kunming Action Agenda – which focuses more specifically on non-state actors – and the UN-WCMC nature commitments platform which focuses more on protected areas and other effective conservation methods (OECMS).
The GBF and its linked CitiesWithNature mechanism is opening up the global stage to cities to show the world that while cities – and the trajectory of urbanization – may be associated with enormous challenges such as pollution, biodiversity loss and land degradation, cities are also known as hubs of innovation and solutions. Cities are where most of the global population resides, where national economies are based, and where academic institutions are located – which makes cities an important player in preventing biodiversity loss.
Renewed Decision and Plan of Action – A model for other Conventions
The renewed Decision, and its associated Plan of Action, is important because it represents, since 2010, the only mechanism for multilevel governance in the three Rio Conventions, and comprises a systematic plan for the Decade ahead. The Plan of Action is a mechanism that allows subnational governments and cities to contribute to the global biodiversity agenda – a level of recognition that does not yet exist in any of the other Conventions. The CBD is the only Rio Convention that has such a systematic and comprehensive mechanism for multilevel governance, which provides a framework for subnational and local governments to support Parties in reaching global and national biodiversity targets. Accordingly, this is a great model to follow for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and other Conventions, because it recognizes and structures the important contributions that cities and regions make to achieving global and national targets.
What can you as a representative of a city/region do in the build-up to COP?
Cities and subnational governments are invited to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, and more importantly to make their commitments on the CitiesWithNature Action Platform as it is closely tied to the engagement of cities and regions in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) process. Cities can add actions that they are already taking, as well as those actions that they are still planning to take. By making their commitments, and reporting on progress on the CitiesWithNature Action Platform, cities and regions become active players in the global agenda. Action at the local and landscape level fosters change faster and is directly evident to people on the ground. An important future step is the implementation of these commitments, and tracking progress and reporting on progress on the Action Platform.
Cities and subnational governments are encouraged to attend the 7th Summit, taking place on 11 – 12 December, and its associated Pavilion, which will run from 8 – 18 December. Both events will take place at the CBD COP venue in Montreal. ICLEI CBC will be profiling all the commitments that these levels of government have already made – and are still making – at the Summit on 12 December. This is an opportunity to show the state Parties, but also the world, what your city or region is doing for nature. ICLEI CBC and its Partners will also be hosting sessions on CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature at the Pavilion.
The Summit, an official parallel event to COP 15, will be co-hosted with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and Regions4, along with the host Government of Québec and the City of Montréal and with the support and engagement of the Province of Yunnan and the City of Kunming. Both the Summit and the Pavilion are financially supported by the Government of Québec as main sponsor.